Chauncey DeVega

'​Fascism in its pure ideological form': Experts dismantle Trump's 'big lie'

On Jan. 6, Donald Trump attempted a coup to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Thousands of his followers attacked the U.S. Capitol with the goal of preventing the certification of the Electoral College votes, a ceremonial procedure that would formally make Joe Biden the next president of the United States.

Five people died as a result of the Capitol attack. Capitol Police and other law enforcement fought bravely before being overrun by Trump's cult members, political goons and right-wing street thugs and paramilitaries. If not for the valiant efforts of those officers that day, the halls Congress could have been turned into a bloodbath. Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others deemed by Trump and his followers to be traitors could easily have been murdered.

Trump's attack force made no attempt to hide their faces. They carried white supremacist flags and other regalia. They assembled a gallows in the park across the street from the Capitol. They carried a Christian nationalist cross and participated in group prayers before attacking the Capitol. The MAGA flag was viewed as a substitute for the American flag, if not as something superior. These terrorists believed themselves to be "patriots" who were defending the "real America" and of course the man they viewed as its true leader.

As we saw that day, fascist movements claim a special love for the police and military but will eagerly purge them for acts of "disloyalty" to the cause.

Only 543 or so members of Trump's attack force have been arrested by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies so far. Most will not be charged with serious crimes, and very few will face felony charges that could result in substantial prison time. The coup plotters and enablers — most notably Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress — will likely never be arrested or otherwise held properly accountable.

On Tuesday, the House select committee held its first hearings on the events of Jan. 6. Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Officer Michael Fanone, Officer Daniel Hodges and Sgt. Harry Dunn shared their experiences of fighting to defend the Capitol from Trump's attack force.

They told the committee and public how they were attacked and beaten by rioters. They were clubbed, tased, crushed, blinded with pepper spray and other irritants, verbally abused (in Dunn's case, with racial slurs) and forced to confront the fear of death, overwhelmed and alone. The unifying theme in their testimony was that various kinds of fanaticism and rage, fueled by white supremacy, conspiracy theory, religious fundamentalism and cultlike devotion to Donald Trump propelled his attack force forward.

Despite the heroism of those officers and others, the coup continues. Jan. 6 was but one stop in a journey by Trump supporters, the Jim Crow Republicans, and the larger neofascist movement aimed at overthrowing multiracial democracy.

Donald Trump himself spoke at a rally in Phoenix on Saturday. He continued to threaten political violence against the Democrats and others who "stole" the 2020 election from him and his followers. The "Big Lie" was reinforced with a new conspiracy theory about "routers." Trump channeled numerous tropes of white victimology; his thousands of devoted followers basked in their collective sociopathy. The rally was clearly invigorating for Trump's broken and alienated followers, if only for a few hours. Such is Trump's power over his cult following, for whom he acts as a human intoxicant.

The mainstream media largely chose to treat Trump's rally in Phoenix as a sideshow not worthy of extensive coverage. This reflects a logic where if Trump and his neofascist movement are ignored, the danger to the country will go away. It will not. In hopes of better understanding Donald Trump's escalating threat to American democracy and the growing power of his fascist cult and movement, I asked several experts from a range of backgrounds for their thoughts on his speech in Phoenix.

Jennifer Mercieca is a professor of communication at Texas A&M, and the author of "Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump."

Former President Donald Trump is America's first "pretender to the presidency." We've never had a president claim to be president when he is not. We've never had a former president insist that he won the election when he did not. His speech in Arizona was for his partisans only, it wasn't meant to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with his view of reality. It was awash in conspiracy theories. Trump's main message is "politics is war and the enemy cheats." That claim informs Trump's whole view of politics, including his election conspiracy claims. Trump's "pretender to the presidency" speech was dangerously anti-democratic.

Norm Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a columnist and contributing editor for The Atlantic and co-author (with E.J. Dionne Jr. and Thomas E. Mann) of "One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported."

Donald Trump has tried to overturn a legitimate presidential election ever since last November. He incited a violent and deadly insurrection at the Capitol. He has lied every day, and is a traitor to his own country. Trump's speech in Arizona took the next step by trying to get the state's Republicans to decertify their 2020 election results, another step to undermine our system and divide us further. And of course, Trump is thoroughly corrupt. He does not belong in civil society.

Federico Finchelstein is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research, and the author of several books including "A Brief History of Fascist Lies." His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and the Guardian.

The Arizona speech made clear that Trump desires to be a fascist. He represents a return to the key elements of fascism: a style and substance steeped in political violence, a leader's cult, dictatorial aims and practices (remember the coup), a politics of hatred, religious fanaticism, militarization of politics, denial of science and totalitarian propaganda. Trump lies like a fascist. Fascists believe their lies and try to transform reality to resemble their lies. This is what Trump expected of his public in Arizona.

Dr. David Reiss is a psychiatrist, expert in mental fitness evaluations and contributor to "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

People are expressing the opinion that Donald Trump is deteriorating, be it emotionally and/or cognitively. I have not evaluated him, so I have neither a clinical baseline nor an acute clinical opinion. But I know what I see and what I hear. This all leads me to one conclusion: As a person and regarding any possible "diagnoses," Trump is mostly unchanged. Unhappier? Almost certainly. Angrier? Without a doubt. He also appears to be vengeful, vindictive and sadistic to a dangerous level. What is new about that?

Trump has always relied on inventing reality extemporaneously to fit his mood and to connect with his audience. He has always had an expertise in that area, such that by now it comes naturally and without planning. He has always been very "strategic" in the moment — but not much further down the road than a few minutes into the future.

CNN recently featured a headline that read "This is the most unhinged Trump rant about the 2020 election yet." Trump is lying more, but Trump is not "more unhinged." Trump has always responded to being uncomfortable with reality by inventing his own reality to meet his needs. He is more uncomfortable with objective reality since Nov. 4, so of course he is increasingly inventing different "realities" that are even less grounded in reason and reality than the ones previously.

Jean Guerrero is an investigative reporter and author of "Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda." Her writing and other work has been featured by the New York Times, PBS and NPR. She is currently an opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times.

Trump's speech was pure gasoline on the flames of white extremism. While much of it sounded like incomprehensible and presumably improvised gibberish, the speech also included the trademark pseudo-intellectualism of his former speechwriter Stephen Miller, with the latter's mastery of white supremacist talking points.

The most disturbing element was Trump's calculated and deliberately vague promise that Democrats plan to "get rid of" certain people, dog-whistling a meme that has been spreading on far-right social media called "Ten Stages of Genocide," which implies that liberals are plotting to exterminate Trump supporters. Trump began his presidency persecuting Mexicans, Muslims and Central Americans while conjuring false visions of their violence to justify that persecution, then expanded to target Black Lives Matter protesters and anti-fascists with the same strategy. Trump is now making it clear that if he returns to office he will be going after all liberals and encouraging his supporters to do the same.

He is inciting political persecution against his critics by promoting delusions of persecution among his armed, white supremacist, violence-loving base. It can be tempting to write off white grievance politics as a joke, but as Trump's own DHS acknowledged, it remains among the top threats to homeland security, as embodied in conspiracy theories about white genocide that Trump is openly embracing.

Trump's claim that "woke politics takes the life and joy out of everything" speaks to the fact that his happiness appears to hinge on the ability to freely scapegoat and persecute others without accountability. We can't be complacent about the threat that Donald Trump continues to represent to democracy and the American people's collective grip on reality.

Jason Stanley is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, and author of "How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them" and "How Propaganda Works."

Trump's speech in Arizona brilliantly structured the themes in American politics that are gradually coming into greater clarity as a fascist social and political movement centering on Trump as leader. In fascist ideology, communists are supposedly seeking to destroy the nation by opening the borders to immigrants who will dilute the majority population and give power to ethnic and sexual minorities (currently, transgender persons are the most vilified by the far right worldwide, and Trump's speech was no exception). Fascism requires minorities to vilify to create panic and fear among the dominant majority. The fascist leader represents himself as the nation's savior and only hope against these threats. In the case of the United States, fascist ideology has always taken the form of exaggerating threats to the dominant white Christian population. The fascist leader presents the options as total loyalty to him or subservience to the communist agenda. All of these fascist themes were front and center in Trump's speech.

The Democrats are supposedly controlled by communists and are letting crime and nonwhite immigration run rampant. Cities run by Democrats, such as New York and Chicago, are "worse than any war zone in the world"; "it's a crime wave the likes of which we've never seen before." The Biden administration is controlled by "the extreme left" and nepotistic and corrupt. Immigration is supposedly out of control. The themes of white supremacy are front and center here ("they're coming in from Yemen. They're coming in from all over the Middle East. They're coming in from Haiti. Large numbers are coming in from Haiti. They're coming in from all parts of Africa."). The communists with their "critical race theory" are threatening our children at their most vulnerable, in schools. And most of all, of course, there was fascist projection — the "big lie" was not that the election was stolen, it was that the election was fair.

In reality, of course, the election was fair. New York City in July had one of its lowest homicide rates in history. Violent crime is not sharply up, and certainly not high given historical trends. None of this relevant in Trump's world, where loyalty to his version of reality is the only possible way of expressing American patriotism. This is fascism in its pure ideological form.

How Donald Trump is creating one of 'the most dangerous moments in this nation's history'

Thousands of members of the Trump cult waited outside for hours in the summer heat of Phoenix on Saturday, before gaining entrance to a Turning Point USA event where their personal god and savior appeared as part of his 2021 revenge tour. It was a political rally, a gospel revival, a rock concert, a carnival and a family reunion all in one.

As a show of loyalty to the Trump death cult, most of the attendees refused to wear masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus pandemic and its new, even more contagious delta variant. The Trumpists even went so far as to heckle the news media with chants of "No masks!"

These are the people recently described in a recent Washington Post essay by Michael Bender, who has spent considerable time among Trump's most diehard followers:

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. ...
In Trump, they'd found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists.

Trump and his neofascist movement inspires such extreme loyalty that his followers are willing to kill or die for him. No one feels that way about Joe Biden and the Democrats.

During his speech in Phoenix, Trump played his familiar roles: bully, mob boss, preacher, public menace, demagogue in waiting and former president who expects to be returned to power by any means necessary. As Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly warned in the weeks after Trump's defeat last November, Trump has channeled the energy and grandiose false claims that propelled Adolf Hitler to power in Germany.

On Saturday night, Donald Trump captivated his audience with a truly Orwellian performance. The event was officially titled, "Rally to Protect Our Elections." But of course the 2020 presidential election only required "protection" from Trump and his allies — protection against voter suppression, widespread lies and subterfuge, an attempted coup against the certification of electoral votes and other attempts to undermine democracy and subvert the people's will.

Trump repeatedly claimed that his "patriotic" movement had been betrayed by the Democrats, President Biden, the news media, social media platforms and other assorted "enemies." He made masterful use of doublespeak, saying, "I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy — I am the one trying to save American democracy."

He even added a new wrinkle to the Big Lie narrative, claiming that votes were supposedly rigged, stolen and otherwise manipulated in Biden's favor — and the truth is to be found in "the routers," the sort of technical-sounding detail that is actually nonsense. Adding new details to a conspiracy theory is an effective way of keeping one's audience engaged, ensuring that the conspiratorial mind finds new channels to follow and new mysteries to be solved.

Trump ramped up his vague threats of political violence, mixing the unsettling and the absurd in vintage style:

  • "Like it or not, we are becoming a communist country. That's what's happening, that's what's happening. We are beyond socialism."
  • "The survival of our nation depends on holding these responsible. ... We have to hold those that are responsible for the 2020 presidential elections scam. It was a scam, greatest crime in history, and we have to hold these people accountable."
  • "These people are crazy. Whatever happened to cows, remember they were going to get rid of all the cows? They stopped that, people didn't like that. Remember? You know why they were going to get rid of all the cows? People will be next."
  • "The Biden administration's action is an outrageous insult to the American people and to our country. The United States of America is the most just and virtuous nation in the world in the history of the world. And I'll tell you, you're not going to have a country very much longer. You're not going to have a country."
  • "Our country is being destroyed by people who have no right to destroy it. People that won an election illegally. People that should not have been elected. They lost in a landslide. Joe Biden and the radical Democrats are wrecking our nation. I don't even believe it's him. I honestly don't believe. I don't think Joe knows where the hell he is. I don't think it's him. Crime is surging. Inflation is soaring. The border is gone. We went from the strongest border ever to the weakest border ever. The border is non-existent. Illegal aliens are pouring in, in record numbers. Critical race theory is being forced into every facet of our society. Free speech is being crushed."

In all, Trump's Phoenix rally was a celebration of lies, white victimology, paranoia and threatened acts of "patriotic" revenge and political violence. Such threats or possibilities are a key attribute of fascism, which proposes scorched-earth tactics to destroy the old social order and create a new one in the image of the leader and the followers.

How did the public respond to Trump's Phoenix rally? The same public voices who have been sounding the red alert about Trump's neofascist movement and its escalating threat to democracy continued to do so. In most important ways, the events of Jan. 6 were just a trial run or harbinger for worse political violence in months and years ahead.

It seems conceivable that the 2022 midterms may be the last "free and fair" national elections in the United States — and given the Jim Crow Republicans' accelerating war on multiracial democracy, that prediction is generous.

Too many voices in the media continue to downplay the dangers to democracy represented by Donald Trump, his movement and the Republican Party. When voices in the mainstream media do speak out, they often lack credibility because they were so late to face the truth about the Trump movement. They may express alarm now, but it's not clear that has much if any impact on public consciousness.

The house has been on fire for several years and now the professional smart people and others with a prominent public platform are finally screaming for help. It is far too late for such belated sounds of alarm to have a real impact on the public's consciousness.

Liberal schadenfreude was in full bloom on social media, which saw a torrent of mockery directed at Trump and his followers, often describing them as ignorant rubes or losers. But laughter will not save America from Trumpism.

In a recent conversation with Salon, physician and psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank, author of "Trump on the Couch," described this kind of laughter in the face of Trumpism as "unhealthy humor" and "defensive in nature."

It's defending against anxiety and fear. Specifically, it is a defensive use of contempt. Through it, people can demean and insult Donald Trump, which in turn means they don't have to be afraid of him. One of the ways a person can express contempt is through laughter. Thus it is a denial of one's vulnerability, because contempt means the other person is harmless, therefore he or she cannot hurt you. In that way, Trump is made into a pathetic fool. "If I laugh, it's not going to hurt me."
Ultimately, defensive contempt is a way of dismissing Trump's dangerousness. However, that type of contempt toward Trump is really an attack on reality. It is also an attack on one's own perception because you have actually undermined your own ability to understand just how dangerous Donald Trump is.

Six years into the Age of Trump, the American people cannot claim ignorance of Trump and his movement. They have been warned repeatedly. They have witnessed the consequences. On Twitter, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt offered these observations after Trump's Phoenix rally:

Ignoring Trump is not an option. Looking away is not an option. Trump is the 2024 presumptive nominee of the GOP. His insanity, conspiracy theories, rage, grievance and lying are dangerous. His words tonight teemed with menace and intimations of violence. Yet, he remains unchallenged except @Liz_Cheney and @RepKinzinger will defy him. He is in complete and total command of the Republican Party and he is waging war on the idea of American democracy. We are at the most dangerous moment in this nations history since the Civil War. Trump is unstable, unfit and addled yet he could be the 47th President. If that happens, we lose the country. We lose our democracy.

Famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday that Trump exhibits "a kind of delusional madness — such as Gen. Milley was talking about — that's on a scale and a scope that we have never experienced in an American president in our history. I think we need to calmly step back and maybe look at Trump in a different context. He is our own American war criminal, of a kind we've never experienced before."

All Donald Trump has to do to command more political violence is to tell his followers the place, date and time. Can anyone doubt they would eagerly follow his orders? The rest of the American people would be shocked. The mainstream news media would tell readers and viewers that this was "unprecedented" and "unimaginable" and that no one could have imagined such a thing in America. Democratic leadership would bray on about "bipartisanship," "democratic institutions," "norms" and "rules." Such reactions are a choice, born of willful ignorance and learned helplessness — a choice that may well doom American democracy.

Journalist explains why the super-rich aren't happy — and how their greed is poisoning our society

Last Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, soared into space in a rocket many observers compared to a penis. A week or so before that, Richard Branson also blasted himself to the edge of space in a "spaceplane" designed by his company, Virgin Galactic.

After his history-making feat, Jeff Bezos gave $100 million to CNN commentator Van Jones, and another $100 million to chef José Andrés, who has dedicated himself to providing free meals to frontline workers and others in need during the pandemic. They were asked by Bezos to use the money for charitable purposes. This beneficence was a type of "apology" for his grotesque act of hubris and ego: he and most others of his class have no sincere sense of social obligation.

In so many ways these billionaires and their space adventures, during a time of human misery and rising neofascism in America and the world, is like bad science fiction turned to life. It is as if Paul Verhoeven, Mike Judge and Roger Corman collaborated on a film and then found a way to replace reality as we once understood it with their elaborate simulation.

Bezos and Branson's antics are further evidence that America is a plutocratic pathocracy that is cannibalizing itself. In this new Gilded Age, millionaires and billionaires have enriched themselves through a political and economic system in which social parasitism and social Darwinism rule largely uncontested.

In this new world — that in many ways is an old world, with echoes of feudalism and debt peonage — neoliberalism means "socialism" for the rich and "free markets" for everyone else. Even worse, the poor, working classes and middle class directly subsidize the wealth and greed of the very rich, because the latter largely do not pay federal and state taxes.

With the billions of dollars Bezos and Branson collectively spent on their rocket rides to space, they could instead have chosen to provide vaccines for the poor around the world, rid the human race of a deadly disease, help uplift the poor and other vulnerable people worldwide, create a project to address the global climate emergency, or done other good works that would have simultaneously soothed their egos and desperate need for attention while also helping others.

With the money spent on his rocket ride and his gifts to Jones and Andrés, Bezos could have instead chosen to provide a true living wage for his employees (the very people who helped him to obtain his vast wealth) or given each of them a substantial cash bonus.

As seen with the Biden administration's new Child Tax Credit it does not take large sums of money to substantially improve the life chances of poor and working-class people in America. Bezos and Branson could easily choose to do the same.

In response to these billionaire space flights, Deepak Xavier, who heads Oxfam International's global inequality campaign, said this:

We've now reached stratospheric inequality. Billionaires burning into space, away from a world of pandemic, climate change and starvation. 11 people are likely now dying of hunger each minute while Bezos prepares for an 11-minute personal space flight. This is human folly, not human achievement.

The ultra-rich are being propped up by unfair tax systems and pitiful labor protections. US billionaires got around $1.8 trillion richer since the beginning of the pandemic and nine new billionaires were created by Big Pharma's monopoly on the COVID-19 vaccines. Bezos pays next to no US income tax but can spend $7.5 billion on his own aerospace adventure. Bezos' fortune has almost doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. He could afford to pay for everyone on Earth to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and still be richer than he was when the pandemic began.
Billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes for our hospitals, schools, roads and social care, too. Governments must adopt a much stronger global minimum tax on multinational corporations and look at new revenues. A wealth tax, for example of just 3 percent, would generate $6 billion a year from Bezos' $200 billion fortune alone ― a sixth of what the US spends on foreign aid. A COVID-19 profits tax on Amazon would yield $11 billion, enough to vaccinate nearly 600 million people.

What we need is a fair tax system that allows more investment into ending hunger and poverty, into education and healthcare, and into saving the planet from the growing climate crisis ―rather than leaving it.

Bezos and Branson command such vast financial resources and power that they can engage in acts of global spectacle for their own ego gratification. Why are the super-wealthy flying off to space? For reasons of personal glory, or perhaps out of collective narcissism and greed, and perhaps to flee a ruined planet — or just because they can.

In the final analysis we may all share planet Earth, but the very rich live in their own reality. Michael Mechanic, a senior editor at Mother Jones, knows this well. His new book "Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live — and How Their Wealth Harms Us All" explores that private and exclusive world.

In this conversation, Mechanic explains what the wealthy and super-rich understand about money that other people do not. He shares how the lives of the wealthy and super-rich are indeed very much outside the lived experiences and reality of all other human beings. Mechanic also explains how the wealthy engage in sociopathic or antisocial behaviors, while suffering few consequences — other than their own rootlessness and unhappiness. He warns that no society with such extreme levels of wealth and income inequality is stable and that a healthy democracy needs a more balanced economy with a flourishing middle class.

This conversation has been edited, as usual, for length and clarity.

As the saying goes, there's a class war in America and the rich won. Why don't we see any mass resistance or pressure to change this unjust system?

This can partly be explained by an American ethos which emphasizes the myth of upward mobility. So many Americans actually believe, "We can be in the mansion someday, and when we get there, we don't want to be taxed too much." This pervasive wealth fantasy exists much more in America than in other countries. As compared to Europeans, for example, Americans are overly optimistic about the prospects for upward mobility. American politicians are constantly telling these rags-to-riches stories as well. Such stories ignore the structural realities of American society and the fact that upward mobility is more mythical than real. Family circumstances are the biggest predictor of a person's own economic circumstances, unfortunately.

What does the average American not understand about the very rich? What is their world like?

Here is one example. White men have much greater access to a network of people in the worlds of finance, venture capital and other lucrative industries that they can rely upon when they need a step up. If you have a friend who works in finance, you can use that relationship to get funding for your business. Even to get in the room with a venture capitalist you usually need to have a friend or other contact to arrange it. If you don't have access to that network, you are at an extreme disadvantage. Most women, in general, do not have such financial networks. Black people in America tend not to have access to those networks either. If you are a working-class Black person looking for funding for a company, good luck — whereas if you come from a wealthy white family, your dad likely knows somebody who can get you that access.

Wealth is intergenerational. There are many among the rich who actually believe that they "earned" their money through "hard work" as opposed to family money, luck and access to other resources. Donald Trump is one of the most notable examples: he received millions of dollars from his father yet brags about being a "self-made" man who got a "small loan" to start his business. Do the wealthy really believe such things?

It varies. Donald Trump is the least self-aware person on earth. He probably believes these myths about self-reliance and that he did it himself. I believe there are wealthy people who appreciate how lucky they are. When you come from a wealthy family it is easy to downplay all of the structural and institutional factors which helped you and your family and that hurt others in terms of accruing intergenerational wealth.

What is the average day like for one of the super-rich?

There are many different types of the super-rich. There are those people that don't work, who are just socialites and go around to events and so forth. There are people who are in industry and are workaholics. But either way, people tend to travel a great deal. They have massive social calendars and many things of that nature to plan. Super-rich families actually have something called a "family office." This is a private company that handles all their personal affairs and investments, and manages all the properties and household employees, and pays the bills. But mainly, the purpose of the family office is to make you richer and to protect your wealth. The family office also helps them to avoid taxes by whatever means necessary. These family offices just perpetuate a dynastic system.

What is it like to live a life without fears or worries about not having enough money?

Many of the super-rich still care about money a great deal, even though they have a ton of it. They don't need more of it, but they use money as a scorecard for their success. It becomes a big game, a competition when you can buy anything you want and have anything you want. That is a quite surreal experience. It is spending money on stupid things. It creates a mindset of "I don't care about money, I don't need it, I can just do what I want." I believe this hurts the children of the wealthy even more because it allows them to flounder through life, never having to stick with anything.

They just wander through life aimlessly. Many children of the wealthy end up getting into the family business or doing something else to maintain a lifestyle that they do not really care about – and that makes them unhappy. To me, that is a bad way to live.

Because they travel so much, the wealthy are often away from their kids for long periods of time. These very wealthy families outsource everything. There are people who do the cooking, the cleaning, the yard work, who take care of the children, etc. There are also consultants for everything. As one of my sources told me, "I meet these super-wealthy people and they don't do anything. They just sort of live in this bubble where everything's being done for them." I believe this explains why we see the super-wealthy engaging in crazy, high-risk, high-priced adventure activities.

There is much research which suggests that the rich, especially the super-rich and the plutocrats, are more likely to be sociopaths than the average person. Did you encounter any people who fit that profile?

Psychologists have studied these questions and have shown that wealthier people, on average, are less empathetic. They are more prone to antisocial behaviors. They are less socially oriented. On the other hand, there's no data that shows the same person before and after getting these large sums of money. Thus, the question: Is it more that these types of personalities are the ones that pursue wealth, or that wealth actually has these negative impacts on a person's behavior?

Does money change people? I asked that question of many people who are sources for the book. Some of them said, "If you have $50 million and you were a jerk, you're going to be a bigger jerk. And if you are a great person, you'll have opportunity to do greater." Essentially, it amplifies your personality. One thing we do know is that children of wealthy families are at high risk for drug addiction and low-level criminal behavior. The risk is similar for very poor kids. People who are from middle-income families are at much lower risk of such behavior.

What of the children of the very rich? Do they just learn that there are no rules for people like them? Poor and working-class people can't claim that they are sick with "affluenza" when they get drunk and run over people, for example.

I do believe that is the case. There is a sense of entitlement that the rules don't apply. We see this among those who are rich but not super-wealthy as well. It is just the idea, "Oh, I can just do this thing and who cares, right? I can cut in line, whatever." It manifests across a range of small behaviors.

What do we know about new money versus old money?

Professional athletes are a classic example. It's actually getting harder and harder for poor kids to make it into the NFL and the NBA. But there is still a pretty sizable number of people who make it in professional sports and come from financially challenging circumstances. They are extremely talented and have focused like a laser beam on being successful in their sport. Then, all of a sudden, they are getting paid $2 million a month. These are crazy amounts of money. I talked with a business manager whose clients are mostly MLB and NBA players. He told me about the following: "This one kid, he's making a million or two a month. He had to hire a housekeeper. Someone to go fold his clothes, do his laundry. Because this kid had never done his own laundry. He never folded his own clothes."

Many of these professional athletes do not know how to function in normal life. They have lived in a bubble. There are all these hangers-on and others in their orbit who are trying to get money from them. It can be the coaches from before they went pro, family members and others who are trying to get these young athletes to take care of them financially.

There are a lot of athletes who fall victim to that. And if you're a big superstar like a Pat Mahomes or Steph Curry, then you can afford to behave in such a way. But as my contact told me, "If you're a backup point guard for the Grizzlies, you can't support a bunch of family members for very long or you are going to go broke." It happens. They get in serious financial trouble. If you come into all those millions of dollars without any sophisticated knowledge about what to do with it, the whole thing can be really disconcerting.

Many people fantasize about wealth. But when you get that wealth, especially all of a sudden, it really changes your relationships with people – including old friends, your middle-class friends. You want to enjoy the money, and you may also want your friends to enjoy it too. "Can I invite my middle-class friends on this fancy trip where I'm going to pay for everything?" Sure, maybe you can do it once. But what's it going to be like if you keep treating your old friends to these super high-end things? It's going to get weird. Pride's going to get in the way, or maybe you'll feel like they are freeloaders. All that money can create very weird dynamics. Family tensions get involved. Children squabble about inheritances. It can become a total mess.

What are the informal rules about wealth that old money understands and new money does not?

Put that money away to make it last. Preserve it, and do not do what the young athletes do. You do not want to be flashy. Old money? it wants nobody to know it exists. The big wealth dynasties with their family offices generally do not want to be big public figures.

Some years ago, I was acquainted with a husband and wife who won the Lotto. It was a modest sum after taxes, perhaps only $150,000. Everyone knew about it because their names were in the newspaper. I asked them a few years later about what they spent the money on. The husband told me he wished they had never won the money, because all they did was pay off some bills and buy a new pickup truck. That was it. But everyone in their family, friends, the neighborhood, their co-workers, all thought they were rich. He told me it was so much stress with everyone asking him and his wife for money that they wished they had never won it to begin with. Is that a common experience?

Yes it is. The conventional wisdom about winning the lottery is that it ruins your life. And in some cases, it really does. I interviewed a guy who was a hedge fund manager. He had a house on Lake Tahoe right next to Larry Ellison's house. And the neighbor on the other side, it was this young guy in his 20s. It turned out, the guy had won a big lottery and bought this $4 million house on Lake Tahoe. He was always up there, just partying with his friends. He didn't seem to have anything else going on in his life. One day the rich guy pulls up in his driveway and he sees the coroner's van next door. He goes over there and asks, "What happened?" They told him, "The person is deceased. This young guy killed himself."

When you have a lot of money there are issues with trusting other people. You do not know who's coming at you. There are going to be people trying to get you involved in business partnerships, pitching ideas to you or trying to become your friend. But you don't really know whether they're there for some other reason. This includes potential romantic partners.

There was a documentary a few years back about lottery winners, that showed how they got all this money and moved into a new neighborhood, and the people there did not accept them. The interviewer asked one of the Powerball winners, an older Black man who came from a working-class neighborhood, what it was like to have all this money. The man was miserable. He and his wife almost started crying. He told the interviewer, "Look around. All we have is a house full of stuff. I don't want to buy anything because I got everything. The neighbors here don't talk to us because they don't think we belong. We were poor in the projects but now we don't trust anyone. We don't have those friendships or family relationships anymore. All we got is a whole bunch of money and a house full of stuff." Then the interviewer asked the obvious follow-up and the man said, "You know what? I was happier when I was poor."

It's true. If you don't have something to give your life meaning, and if you think money is the meaning of life and you pursue that path, forget it. You are going to be miserable.

So what's the magic number in terms of income and happiness?

There is research that looked at millions of people and their self-reported happiness. Positive emotions peak at incomes over 65 grand. Your negative emotions are minimized at about 95 grand. And then there is what is known as "life satisfaction," which is a type of measure of how you view yourself relative to your peers. That maxes out at $105,000, a modest amount of money.

Once you get above the satiation point where a person knows that their needs are met, it is all just creature comforts and other bonuses in life. As you go past the satiation point, your life satisfaction starts to decrease in wealthy nations. We still do not know why that is. But one of the speculations is that in order to maintain this high-end lifestyle, a person has to work all the time and they lose their social connections. If you take a high-paying job and you're just on-call all the time and have too many responsibilities, there is less time to enjoy your life and your relationships. What good is it, right? You have a large bank account and no friends.

We know a great deal about the poor and the "underclass," but we know very little about the very rich. They are under-researched because as a rule they do not talk to outsiders. How did you get access to them?

It was a very laborious process. I had many rejections. In fact, the billionaires wouldn't talk to me at all. They'll talk to you about other things. But they are not going to talk to you regarding their feelings about wealth. But the wealthy also have lots of middlemen, the PR people and the like, who said no. I got a lot more rejections than I got acceptances, I would say. So I had to fill in the gaps by talking to people who are on the periphery of the billionaire class, people who work with them closely, in financial management, of course, but also in such varied roles as building safe rooms for hedge funders, for example. I spoke to a woman who works security for billionaires and trains their nannies in physical combat. I also spent time hanging out with luxury realtors and luxury car dealers and all manner of people who interact with these incredibly wealthy clients.

What do you want the American people to understand about the super-rich?

By and large they are not bad people. The point of writing "Jackpot" was not to disparage the wealthy, but to point out how flawed our system is in America that allows people to amass such wealth at the expense of others. The policies that enable such an outcome is driving us apart as a society. It's really tearing at the social fabric, because as the rungs of the economic ladder get wider and wider apart, we are losing empathy for the people on the other side. There is now a situation where we are a society of extreme winners versus extreme losers. A healthy society has a thriving middle class. That's what really lifts all boats.

America's history wars get serious: Texas GOP wants to dump MLK -- and whitewash the KKK

In the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney proclaimed that Black people have "no rights that the white man is bound to respect." Today's Jim Crow Republican Party, and the white right more broadly, have taken the spirit of those words and updated them for the 21st century, effectively by arguing that "white people are not bound to respect historical truth or established facts — at least not as they pertain to Black and brown people in America".

As the next step in their war against multiracial democracy, the Republican Party and its allies have launched a moral panic about "critical race theory." Of course, their version of "critical race theory" is a type of racial bogeyman or psychological projection, a function of white racial paranoia about the "browning of America" and the threat of "white genocide."

Facts do not matter in the right-wing echo chamber. It is of no importance that the white right's version of "critical race theory" has nothing to do with the scholarly paradigm of the same name.

As the truism holds, history is written by the victors. To that end, in dozens of states across the country, the white right is engaging in an Orwellian campaign of rewriting school curricula to prevent the teaching of "critical race theory" -- which in practice means stopping any serious engagement with America's real and often uncomfortable history of racism and white supremacy.

The white right's campaign against the teaching of real American history involves actual thoughtcrimes.

For example, in Florida, a law was recently passed mandating a survey of students and faculty in public colleges and universities to determine their political beliefs. Of course, Florida has also banned the teaching of "critical race theory."

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, perhaps the single most influential voice on the white right, recently suggested that cameras should be placed in classrooms to ensure that no teachers will deploy "critical race theory" or other facts and arguments deemed to be "unpatriotic."

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate recently passed a bill eliminating a requirement that the history of the civil rights movement and other human rights struggles be taught in public schools. The bill also removed a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan from course requirements as well.

As Yahoo News reports, the requirements removed from the state's curriculum include two speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., any mention of Latino labor organizers Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and any mention of Thomas Jefferson's long-term relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved teenage child who bore six of his children. The bill bars any use of the New York Times' 1619 Project and "prohibits teaching that slavery was part of the 'true' founding of the United States" and removes the requirement to study the "history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

This Republican legislation has been met with widespread outrage. But that reaction should just be the beginning. The next step involves doing the harder work of understanding why so many other (mostly white) Americans actually believe that "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history should be banned. Understanding these beliefs and motivations is essential to defeating American neofascism and its white supremacist social and political project.

Many Americans have been propagandized by their schools, news media, the internet, churches and other social institutions to believe in a large set of interlocking lies and myths about the country's past and present. To intervene against these lies often causes emotional pain and/or narcissistic injury to those who hold such beliefs.

This dynamic is especially powerful for those who are emotionally, psychologically, financially and politically invested in defending and protecting white privilege and white people's control over almost every aspect of American life. In that context, the personal truly is political: Whiteness, as a concept and a social force, has become linked at an individual level to the maintenance of white power.

How does this right-wing fantasy machine work? The Root has exhaustively documented how some of America's most widely used history textbooks misrepresent the real history of the color line and distort such topics as chattel slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and social injustice more generally, through the use of what sociologist Joe Feagin has called the "white racial frame."

Michael Harriot offers this analysis:

So when Mitch McConnell and 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the secretary of education decrying the ghastly prospect of white students having to learn actual facts about slavery, it was not unexpected. For centuries, this country's schools have perpetuated a whitewashed version of history that either erases or reduces the story of Black America down to a B-plot in the American script. It's why they hate Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project and anything factual — because the white-centric interpretation of our national past is so commonly accepted, white people have convinced themselves that anything that varies from the Caucasian interpretation must be a lie. …
This is why they oppose expanding the historiography of our national story. American schools have never taught a version of history that wasn't racialized. But, apparently, it's perfectly fine if the racial narrative skews toward whiteness. They can't be opposed to learning a different historical perspective because they never learned history; they were spoonfed fiction in bite-sized morsels.
To be fair, it's understandable why they are so adamant about what they believe in.
Imagine you are a white man. Now imagine what it's like going through 12 years of school, four years of college, graduate school and an entire career that made you one of the most powerful people on the planet. Now imagine a group of Black journalists, led by a Black woman, told you that you don't know shit.

To that point, the right-wing echo chamber consistently repeats neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" myths, such as the oft-repeated lie that the Civil War was fought over "states' rights" rather than white-on-Black chattel slavery.

The right obsessively depicts the Democrats as "the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and slavery". This is a deliberate distortion of history because the pro-slavery, pro-segregation faction of the Democratic Party became solid Republicans after the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Right-wing propagandists also love to claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a "Republican," or at least espoused Republican values. This is a ludicrous allegation: In contemporary terms King was a democratic socialist or progressive who opposed racism, poverty, military adventurism and injustice of all kinds. King would have viewed the modern-day conservative movement as a great force for evil in American society and the world.

Black conservative propagandists play an important role in the right-wing echo chamber, validating racist fantasies that slavery was a "gift" to Black people because it brought them to America. In this twisted perception of history, chattel slavery is understood as a "necessary evil" because it gave Black people Christianity and taught them the value of "hard work".

These same Black conservatives love to repeat the vicious lie that the Democratic Party is a type of "plantation." In reality, the plantations of the antebellum South were prison camps, charnel houses and places of torture, rape, suffering and death. Black conservative propagandists frequently announce that they are special and uniquely capable of "thinking for themselves," as compared to the vast majority of Black people who support the Democratic Party and are therefore deemed to be ignorant or uninformed.

The campaign against "critical race theory" — and against teaching America's real history — must be understood as part of a larger fascist strategy of attacking public schools and other institutions of learning with the aim of creating compliant followers and a public that is not equipped to participate in democracy — or to defend it.

This plan involves placing white supremacists, QAnon conspiracists, Trump supporters and other right-wing extremists — to the degree those categories of people can be separated — on local school boards and library advisory councils, banning "controversial" books, and the surveillance or intimidation of teachers deemed too "liberal" or suspected of "politicizing" the classroom, i.e., by refusing to teach right-wing dogma and other lies.

The fascist assault on education and critical thinking also involves think tanks, right-wing activists and advocacy groups, along with a network of wealthy funders committed to remaking American society to fit their racist, theocratic and plutocratic vision.

The Texas Republicans' attempt to literally whitewash the Ku Klux Klan out of American history is so ridiculous that it approaches parody. That doesn't make such historical erasure and distortion any less dangerous. Those dangers are further amplified by the crisis of democracy caused by the Jim Crow Republicans and ascendant neofascist movement.

As historian Timothy Snyder warned in a recent essay in the New York Times:

Democracy requires individual responsibility, which is impossible without critical history. It thrives in a spirit of self-awareness and self-correction. Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is infantilizing: We should not have to feel any negative emotions; difficult subjects should be kept from us. Our memory laws amount to therapy, a talking cure. In the laws' portrayal of the world, the words of white people have the magic power to dissolve the historical consequences of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression. Racism is over when white people say so.
We start by saying we are not racists. Yes, that felt nice. And now we should make sure that no one says anything that might upset us. The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good. The laws themselves model the desired rhetoric. We are just trying to be fair. We behave neutrally. We are innocent.

When viewed in the aggregate, these attacks on "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history echo some of the worst aspects of the country's past. In his book "Trouble in Mind", historian Leon Litwack details how history was taught during the Jim Crow reign of terror:

The history to which Black children were exposed in the classroom and the primers made a virtual gospel of the superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions and ways of thinking and acting…. What little they learned of their own history consisted often of disparaging caricatures of Black people as the least civilized of the races — irresponsible, thoughtless, foolish, childlike people, satisfied with their lowly place in American life, incapable of self-control and self-direction. The history of Black people was a history of submission gladly endured and of services faithfully rendered. Transported from the darkness of heathen Africa to the civilized and Christian New World, grateful slaves found contentment and happiness…. The treatment of emancipation depicted Blacks passively waiting for Massa' Lincoln to strike off their shackles. And Reconstruction saw the enthronement of Black ignorance and inexperience, with the Ku Klux Klan in some account redeeming Anglo-Saxon civilization from alien rule. The history lessons taught in public schools were calculated to produce patriotic citizens, albeit with a distinctive southern bias.

The Jim Crow Republicans and the white right view this approach to American history as admirable, something to be resuscitated from the dustbin of the country's past.

In the self-serving stories told by the Ku Klux Klan, that terrorist organization had noble origins, represented "Christian values," did charity work and helped the poor, served the community by dealing with drunks and other miscreants, and protected "white families" as well as the "good Blacks". This is the fake history that the Jim Crow Republicans want to see taught to America's young people.

The neofascist movement understands that if it wins the battle over the teaching of the past, it can in turn control the future. In total, the right wing's moral panic over "critical race theory" resembles the kind of hearts-and-minds indoctrination favored by the great villains of history. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Goebbels would be proud to see their legacy continued.

Here's what the allegedly leaked Kremlin documents about Trump and Putin really tell us

Joe Biden may be president, but in too many ways the Age of Trump marches on. American political and civic life continues to resemble a spy thriller, a horror movie or a science fiction dystopia that keeps spawning sequels. Most Americans want to escape the theater, but the doors are locked. Those who remain in their seats love these movies and can't get enough of their charismatic star.

The ending of this saga has been obvious since the beginning: Donald Trump is a malevolent force, with no loyalty to the United States and its people; yet his followers worship him as a god and nothing can tear them away from the cult.

Almost every day there are new plot twists. As reported last week, the highest-ranking officers and civilian leaders of the U.S. military were concerned that Trump might try to stage a military coup after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, considered a plan to resist such a move through mass resignations, a last-ditch effort to save democracy.

As detailed in Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's new book "I Alone Can Fix It," Trump became so enraged after losing to Joe Biden that some feared he would stage a "Reichstag fire" incident, in the mode of Adolf Hitler, that might allow him to seize absolute power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even asked Milley to ensure that Trump would not launch a nuclear attack and use the ensuing crisis as an excuse to suspend the Constitution and remain in power.

More "revelations" have followed: Last Thursday the Guardian reported that it had obtained classified documents from a 2016 meeting where the Russian government launched its secret campaign in support of Trump:

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a "mentally unstable" Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia's national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.
The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.
They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow's strategic objectives, among them "social turmoil" in the US and a weakening of the American president's negotiating position.
Russia's three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin's signature.
Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.
The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine. Incidental details come across as accurate. The overall tone and thrust is said to be consistent with Kremlin security thinking.

At this purported Kremlin meeting, Putin and the Russian intelligence services concluded that Trump could be easily manipulated to serve Russia's strategic goals because he is an "impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex." This document concludes, "It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate [Trump's] election to the post of US president."

The Guardian further concludes that the Kremlin's internal report was likely the work of Vladimir Symonenko, a senior Kremlin official who "provides Putin with analytical material and reports, some of them based on foreign intelligence." He discussed various "American weaknesses" Russian agents could exploit, including "a 'deepening political gulf between left and right," the U.S. 'media-information' space, and an anti-establishment mood under President Barack Obama."

The Guardian report has been met with considerable skepticism, some of it from the usual suspects who continue to claim — despite an abundance of known and proven facts — that the scandal sometimes dubbed "Russiagate" was all a hoax, or at least grossly exaggerated. But it's also fair to say that some respected national security experts are suspicious about the timing of the Guardian story, and the authenticity and provenance of the documents in question.

But other national security and intelligence experts believe the Guardian story is true and the Kremlin documents are authentic. Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer and author of several bestselling books who serves as an intelligence and security analyst for CNN, believes the Kremlin document is legitimate and was likely leaked to the Guardian by British intelligence.

In a recent conversation with journalist Ian Masters, Baer said that Donald Trump may indeed have served as a "useful idiot" on behalf of Russian interests, sent into the heart of American democracy as a "Trojan horse to cause problems." He suggests that Russian intelligence used the technique of "framing a guilty man" to muddy the waters around Trump and make him a more effective chaos agent.

Writing at Esquire, Charles Pierce explains how he reconciles concerns about the veracity of the Kremlin papers:

Are experts within the Western intelligence agencies divided about the authenticity of the documents, and did someone who believes them to be the smoking gun leak them in order to force the action? I'd certainly want to know more about their provenance than I do now.
Frankly, my impulse is to believe what The Guardian reported. The revelations certainly seem believable given some of the otherwise inexplicable actions of the previous president* and his administration*, and they also conform to the methods of ratfcking Russia has used in other democracies in Europe. (What up, Estonia?) And they also track with what we've learned recently about the former president*'s rabid-badger attempts to stay in power after he'd clearly lost the election — and, for that matter, his continued attempts to undermine confidence in this country's electoral system.
But my innate caution against leaping to conclusions based on leaks from intelligence services of any kind makes me cautious about this being a conclusive Eureka moment. Too many shadowy people have too many shadowy agendas for me to accept anything emerging from those shadows too readily. But there is one conclusion I will stand by, based on the Guardian story and its conformity to what a lot of us suspected was true about the previous president*: We simply have got to get rid of the Electoral College. Now.

Whatever one concludes about the authenticity of these Kremlin papers, one conclusion is obvious: Their observations about Donald Trump, and about the vulnerability of American society to disinformation and subversion, are correct.

Both Robert Mueller's report and the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the 2016 election (the latter completed under Republican leadership) have conclusively shown that Russia interfered to help Donald Trump win as a way of advancing its strategic goals. Moreover, it is a matter of public record that Trump's inner circle included at least one Russian agent.

At almost every key juncture in his presidency, Trump made decisions that advanced Russia's interests to the disadvantage of the United States. In both public and private, he was strikingly submissive and deferential to Putin. Whether that reflects blackmail and control, or simply hero worship and admiration, is an unsettled question.

Even members of Trump's administration and Republican elected officials questioned his loyalty to the country, especially after the astonishing Helsinki summit of 2018.

In the end, Russia's strategy would prove to be brilliant: Trump left the White House with the U.S. a weakened world power, gripped by a plague that has killed at least 600,000 people, along with a neofascist insurgency that shows no signs of dying out. Right-wing terrorism and other violence is escalating, and the nation has become irreparably polarized by the increasing radicalism of Republicans and the right.

In recent weeks I have reflected a great deal on my 2019 conversation with the late Dr. Jerrold Post, the founding director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. In Post's long and distinguished career, he served as the CIA's head psychological profiler under five presidents of both political parties. He described Donald Trump this way:

If one were to subtract from the ranks of political leaders all those with significant narcissistic personality features, the ranks would be perilously impoverished. I see Donald Trump as representing the quintessential narcissist. Using that phrase, though, is not to make a diagnosis, but to say he has a preponderance of these traits. Someone such as Donald Trump with that trait has no capacity to empathize with others, no constraints of conscience. Donald Trump also demonstrates a paranoid orientation. Whenever anything goes wrong, there is someone to blame.
There is also unconstrained aggression. This is very important. Never apologize, never admit you're wrong. That is part of Donald Trump's political style. But negotiating foreign policy is different from negotiating how to buy a skyscraper. Donald Trump also shows through his behavior a deep underlying insecurity. His grandiosity aside, Donald Trump is extremely fragile, and that trait is associated with extreme sensitivity.

Post also warned, nearly two years before it happened, that Donald Trump was unlikely to leave office peacefully:

In the last chapter of my new book I quote one of my favorite poems, which is, "Do not go gentle into that good night, but rage, rage at the dying of the light." I do not believe that Donald Trump will go gentle into that good night. In a close election, there is a very real hazard in terms of both potential outcomes. Should Trump win, as he did in 2016, he will make it a much bigger win and talking about the fraudulent election support on the Democratic side. But should Trump lose narrowly, I think we can be assured that he will not concede early. Trump may not even recognize the legitimacy of the election.

How will the American people deal with these continuous "revelations" about Trump and his regime? To this point, the response seems to be impotent rage. Because Trump and his inner circle are almost entirely rich white men, they will face no serious punishment for their crimes and other wrongdoing. Many Americans feel justifiable rage about a system which has one set of rules and laws for the rich and powerful (who are white) and another set for everyone else.

America is not just experiencing a democracy crisis caused by the Trump movement and the Jim Crow Republicans. The problem goes much deeper: America's political and social institutions are experiencing a legitimacy crisis, in which Trumpism is one symptom of a much larger disease.

The American people must decide whether their rage can be turned to productive or regenerative possibilities, or whether they continue to live in a state of learned helplessness, shrugging their shoulders as even more of the Trump regime's crimes are revealed. On that decision rests the future of democracy.

Harvard historian explains why Trump's Jan. 6 insurrection was a 'turning point' in American history

In the past six months, since the events of Jan. 6, I have been meditating a great deal on William Faulkner's wisdom and warning: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

American history is a puzzle, full of contradictions and complexity. But some people, instead of studying this history so as to make better decisions in the present and future, choose to take a hammer to the puzzle. They smash it and then hammer the pieces back together so as to fit their self-serving lies and distortions.

Consider the moral panic created by the white right against "critical race theory." Of course, as deployed by right-wing propagandists, "critical race theory" possesses little if any resemblance to the epistemological framework of the same name. For the white right it's a term that means everything and nothing, a convenient vessel into which they can pour white rage, white fear, white victimology and white supremacy in an ongoing attack on multiracial American democracy.

Writing at the Atlantic, historian Ibram X. Kendi summarizes this:

The United States is not in the midst of a "culture war" over race and racism. The animating force of our current conflict is not our differing values, beliefs, moral codes, or practices. The American people aren't divided. The American people are being divided.
Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: "a way of looking at law's role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country," as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors. …

Right-wing hysteria about "critical race theory" is not happening in a vacuum. It is part of a much larger project by the Jim Crow Republicans, neofascists and the broader white right to legitimize a new type of American apartheid in which nonwhites — especially Black people — do not have equal rights with white "conservatives" and others loyal to their cause.

This crisis of democracy has forced questions of history and public memory to the forefront of America's struggle against neofascism and authoritarianism.

In an essay for the New York Times, historian Timothy Snyder warns of the threat to democracy posed by Republican attempts to whitewash American history — quite literally — through Orwellian laws that ban the teaching of "critical race theory":

This spring, memory laws arrived in America. Republican state legislators proposed dozens of bills designed to guide and control American understanding of the past. As of this writing, five states (Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma) have passed laws that direct and restrict discussions of history in classrooms. The Department of Education of a sixth (Florida) has passed guidelines with the same effect. Another 12 state legislatures are still considering memory laws. …
Democracy requires individual responsibility, which is impossible without critical history. It thrives in a spirit of self-awareness and self-correction. Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is infantilizing: We should not have to feel any negative emotions; difficult subjects should be kept from us. Our memory laws amount to therapy, a talking cure. In the laws' portrayal of the world, the words of white people have the magic power to dissolve the historical consequences of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression. Racism is over when white people say so.
We start by saying we are not racists. Yes, that felt nice. And now we should make sure that no one says anything that might upset us. The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good. The laws themselves model the desired rhetoric. We are just trying to be fair. We behave neutrally. We are innocent.

Ultimately, these fights about the past are fronts in a larger war about the present and future of American society. In an effort to better understand these struggles over history, power, memory and the color line in the Age of Trump and beyond, I recently spoke with historian Annette Gordon-Reed.

She is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University and the author of several books, including "Thomas Jefferson And Sally Hemings: An American Controversy" (which was awarded the National Book Award) and the Pulitzer Prize–winning "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family." Gordon-Reed was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history in 2009. Her new book is "On Juneteenth."

In this conversation, Gordon-Reed explains how Donald Trump's coup attempt and his followers' attack on the Capitol represent a much older struggle in America over multiracial democracy and "white freedom." She warns that the events of Jan. 6 pose a fundamental threat to the future of the American republic and democratic experiment.

Gordon-Reed also discusses how African Americans, from slavery to freedom and beyond, have been stalwart defenders of the best principles of American democracy, yet find themselves still fighting against white people who want to deny them their civil rights. She locates the attacks on "critical race theory" relative to deeper societal questions about white guilt, evasions of reality and responsibility, historical memory and white supremacy.

How do we begin to understand the events of Jan. 6 within the larger history of America's multiracial democracy?

It shows the predicament that we are in as a country. African Americans have from the very beginning been the people who tried to make the promise of America real. They believed in the words of the Declaration of Independence. African Americans have tried to uphold those words, in the face of other people who did not seem to take those words and the values as seriously as they did.

African Americans have long tried to uphold the values of the Declaration and the notion of equality in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which brought Black people into citizenship and represent the idea that people should be treated as equal citizens. Yet there are people right now here in the United States who do not take those parts of the Constitution seriously. They are imagined as "true" Americans, and are given the benefit of the doubt when, for example, they attack the Capitol building.

It is an obvious juxtaposition, but if Trump's attack force had been Muslim or Black the narrative would be totally different.

They would have been mowed down. They would not have gotten inside the Capitol building. Historians cannot predict the future, but Jan. 6 is going to be looked at as potentially a turning point in the country's history. If there is no proper reckoning, then the United States is facing serious problems. The whole concept of democracy and the republic are at stake.

Why are so many (white) people upset by basic facts about the color line and its centrality to American history?

Guilt. That is why there are people who don't want to talk about race or slavery or related topics in schools because white children will supposedly feel upset. That is the heart of white identity politics. The idea that a child is going to look back at something that happened in the 1730s and say, "Oh, those are white people. Those are my people, and I must defend those people." That same child will then supposedly feel bad because challenging things are being said about them.

In practice it means that Black people's feelings do not matter. We want to tell the story of our ancestors. We have to keep quiet so that white people do not feel bad.

There is a choice being made there. They could easily repudiate what happened in the past and say, "We're going to do something different and move forward." But instead, the response is to be defensive. It puts white people and whiteness at the center of the universe, and everybody else is just peripheral to that. Only their feelings count. There are some white people who truly feel that way.

There is the common deflection that teaching the real history of the country and the color line is "divisive." Mitch McConnell recently used that language.

It is only divisive if Mitch McConnell and others who feel that way choose to stand with the people in the past. He could easily say, "Yes, that happened. It was wrong. We'll do better. And we want to chart a different course." But some of them are still very much wedded to that past. History is not just the study and discussion of things that make you feel good. That is not real history.

What is at stake in these current debates over history and public memory?

In the case of the Confederacy, it means the "Lost Cause," and how those who sympathize with it have never given up on the idea of white supremacy, or that Blacks should be second-class citizens. It also means that the interests of Black people should be subordinate to those of white people. With the Confederate statues and what they represent, including the "honor" of Confederate soldiers and so on, that is a way of publicly stating that the Confederacy will never be defeated, that its defenders have not repudiated the past and that they have not changed. Ultimately, that is what is at stake for them.

That past was a country built on chattel slavery. For Black people, these debates are about citizenship. The people who tried to preserve a system of slavery lose the Civil War and then get statues. That is an act of white supremacy. It is sending a message to Black Americans that you are not supposed to be comfortable here because this is "our" space.

Given the Republican Party and white right's assault on Black and brown people's voting rights and civil rights, didn't the Confederacy actually win the Civil War in the long run?

They seem to have won the cultural battle. Many neo-Confederates and those aligned with them or who otherwise share those values have never given up on the idea of white supremacy and a racial hierarchy with Black subordination. That seems to be what's happening now in America.

Growing up in Texas, I remember seeing a Confederate flag only occasionally. We would see the Texas flag and American flag together all the time. I was in Texas three or four years ago and I saw more Confederate flags on that trip than I'd seen in my entire childhood in the South. There's been a resurgence of militant whiteness. The Confederate flag represents that for many people. They are bold about it. To see a resurgence of the Confederacy is a worrisome thing.

How do you explain this moment of white rage? Is it as simple as a backlash against the Barack Obama?

That is certainly part of it. It is reminiscent of Reconstruction. Such a reaction tends to happen when people think that the culture is changing, and Obama's presidency represented clear evidence of that fact. What many people see as a dream other people see as a nightmare. In all, it is a reaction against a more inclusive society. The election of Barack Obama seems to have stunned many people, and these Confederate monuments symbolize a past that such people feel nostalgic for — a past where Blacks were second-class citizens.

Who owns the past? I am thinking specifically of these monuments but also, for example how some white people hold weddings and other festive gatherings at Southern plantations, places that were literally sites of torture, death, rape and other forms of misery for Black human property.

It is a constant battle about power. Whose memories are going to be ascendant? That is what is being fought over. These plantation weddings are an example of people who are tuning out the real meaning of what these plantations actually were in American history, in terms of chattel slavery. They want to control the past, but a past that is not a real past at all. It's just amazing to me that there are so many people who believe that we can talk about American history without talking about race.

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. How do we balance symbolic and substantive politics? Through that lens, what does Juneteenth mean — and what does it not mean?

Juneteenth is important. But people either make things out of symbols or they do not. Juneteenth has the potential of starting a conversation, or continuing a conversation, about the issue of slavery and freedom, the nature of emancipation and voting. This directly connects to the present and the question of whether we are going to tolerate these measures that are designed to stop Black people and people of color more generally from voting.

Republicans and the white right have launched an all-out attack on "critical race theory" and the teaching of the truth about American history and society and the color line more generally. If this Orwellian crusade is victorious, what would the average person not know about Juneteenth and Texas history for example?

Many people probably would not know that Stephen F. Austin was explicitly a booster for the institution of slavery and thought that slavery was vital to the development of Texas. You might not know that people at the Alamo, including Travis and Bowie, had slaves and were slave traders. You cannot talk about the Republic of Texas without talking about slavery. The Texas constitution explicitly said that Black people could not be citizens.

And also that the war with Mexico was in many ways directly over slavery.

Texans were afraid that Mexico, which had outlawed slavery but gave them an exemption, would change its mind. Texas wanted to be part of the Cotton Empire that the South was hoping to build, which included Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean and elsewhere. To do that, they had to have slavery. You cannot understand Texas without knowing this history.

Americans just celebrated the first Fourth of July since the events of Jan. 6, as the Republicans and their allies are escalating their war on Black and brown people's right to vote. What does that holiday mean in this moment?

Everything old is new again. We are a young country and we're an even younger full democracy. The right to vote was not extended to Black people until the 1960s. That is only a few decades ago. The notion of multiracial American democracy is very new and very fragile, and people are still fighting about it. "We don't want Negro rule." That was being said by whites in the 19th century after the Civil War, when Black men got the vote — and that is where we are now.

Six months later: What have we learned from Jan. 6? Not enough to stop it from happening again

Six months have passed since the historic and horrible events of Jan. 6, 2021. What have we learned since then?

More than 550 members of Donald Trump's attack force have been arrested, including nearly 40 charged with conspiracy. The ringleaders, including Donald Trump and his inner circle, who instigated, funded and organized the attack on the Capitol have not been punished. Given the Department of Justice's timid approach to investigating and prosecuting the Trump regime's many obvious crimes, it is unlikely they ever will be.

Trump and his Republican Party's plot to overthrow the government by nullifying the results of the 2020 presidential election were far more extensive — and far more likely to succeed — than was previously known.

Public opinion polls show that a growing number of Americans simply want to "move on" from the events of Jan. 6. Predictably, this is especially true of Republicans.

There will be no bipartisan committee to investigate what happened that day. The Republican Party has obstructed such investigations because of its obvious guilt and complicity. Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will convene a select committee, which will presumably have less power and authority than a proper commission.

Those who want to move on have deluded themselves into the fantastic belief that climbing into the memory well will magically keep them safe. In reality, the memory well is a type of purgatory or prison.

In keeping with how fascism spreads in a failing democracy, Trump and his propagandists are now elevating right-wing terrorists into "heroes" and "political prisoners" who should be freed from prison immediately. But the most important fact remains unchanged: The events of Jan. 6 were a trial run, and proof of concept. If the Republican Party loses a presidential election in the future, we will in all probability see a second coup — and it will likely be successful.

These last six months have also been a time of public events, commemorations and other important dates that signal to an American story of violence, freedom won in blood, racism and white supremacy, destruction and creation, freedom dreams and authoritarian nightmares — with the color line intersecting it all.

Specifically, in that time we have seen the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa white-on-black race massacre, the one-year anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, the first Juneteenth to be a national holiday, and the first Memorial Day and Fourth of July since the Capitol attack.

On this, James Baldwin wrote in 1963 that "American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it."

In total, America's unresolved history its and accompanying need for a moral reckoning gave birth to the befouled creature that is Trumpism and American neofascism — and continues to give it life. In the maelstrom of this half-year there was an important moment that received little attention, but that explains much about the events of Jan. 6, the motivations of the attackers and coup plotters, and the likelihood that such political violence will happen again.

On June 29, the House of Representatives voted to remove Confederate statues on display in the Capitol. All Democrats voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans voted against it. It will now go to the Senate where the Republicans will almost certainly kill it with the filibuster.

Of course, those who defend displaying Confederate statues in the home of American democracy, and in public places more generally, will summon up intellectually dishonest claims about how such objects represent "history" and "heritage," perhaps even a "noble cause." They may also offer nonsense claims that the treasonous cause of the Confederacy was about "states' rights" instead of about protecting the vile institution of white-on-black chattel slavery.

The Confederacy was dedicated to white supremacy, racial authoritarianism and a particular kind of "white freedom" in which the human rights of Black and brown people were not to be respected. Today's Republican Party — in which the Southern slaveocracy and Jim Crow South have been reborn — largely shares the same values and beliefs, albeit presented in a different (and less honest) form.

When Trump's followers launched their lethal attack on the Capitol, some waved Confederate flags, which are symbols of white supremacy and hatred. The Trump attack force wore and displayed other white supremacist symbols and regalia. Many carried crosses to symbolize their commitment to the fascist "Christian identity" movement. It is no coincidence that open white supremacists including Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other right-wing paramilitary groups played such a prominent role on Jan. 6.

Trump's attack force was not just attacking the rule of law and the Constitution, but also the idea of multiracial democracy itself. Those who have been arrested have repeatedly told law enforcement that they were acting out of "patriotism". The traitors in the old Confederacy used similar language.

Because it can no longer win free and fair elections, the Jim Crow Republican Party is trying to keep Black and brown people from voting. To that end, in nearly all states Republicans have proposed anti-democracy laws that disproportionately target Black and brown people and other members of the Democratic Party's base. This new Jim Crow apartheid is explicitly designed to subvert the people's will and to rig elections so that Republicans — the world's largest white supremacist political organization — literally cannot lose. As in the old Confederacy, the ultimate goal is to create a type of white "Christian" plutocracy and racial authoritarian state.

The Republican Party and the larger white right's moral panic about "critical race theory" (which in practice means any substantive and truthful discussions of racial and social inequality) is an attempt to literally whitewash American history in the service of white supremacist fantasies. The Confederacy and its loyalists did much the same thing. That project continues in the present.

Moreover, what the Jim Crow Republicans and other neofascists now describe as "patriotic education" is in practice white supremacist Orwellian brainwashing. As seen in Florida and elsewhere, those who dissent from such a regime will be punished for thoughtcrimes.

The Republican Party's commitment to the neo-Confederate cause is not something being imposed on its voters and followers by outside forces. Public opinion polls and other research shows that white Republicans (and especially Trump supporters) are committed to white racial authoritarianism, are afraid of the "browning of America." and subscribe to the paranoid view that they are somehow being "replaced" by Black and brown people. These same fears motivated white Southerners during white-on-black slavery and through to the end of Reconstruction and beyond.

A 2019 Economist/YouGov poll reported that 53% of Republican voters believed Donald Trump was a better Republican president than Abraham Lincoln.

The thousands of Trumpists who attacked and overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 wore their signature red MAGA hats and other markers of loyalty to the Great Leader and his neofascist cause. Those red hats were not something outside of American history or entirely without precedent. More than a century ago their forefathers — in spirit, and in some cases literally as well — donned red shirts and other garments to symbolize their dedication to white power as they engaged in a campaign of terror against free Black Americans and their white allies during Reconstruction and after.

Writing at the Daily Kos, journalist David Neiwert connects that past to Trumpism and white supremacy.

Banning the Klan simply did not work. Southerners instead began forming "rifle clubs" whose purpose was in fact to sow political terror. The participants in these clubs began wearing bright blood-red shirts as a way of mocking the "bloody shirts" supposedly waved about by their Northern foes. Thus, the Red Shirts came into being.
Southerners called their strategy — which essentially entailed overthrowing Reconstruction-era Republican rule by means of organized threats of violence and suppression of the black vote — "the Mississippi plan," whose name came from the violent skirmishes that broke out in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which culminated in the deaths of several hundred black people and the assassination of the black sheriff. Similar strategies emerged when organized whites staged a coup in Louisiana that ultimately overthrew the Republican governor, as well as a "race riot" in Alabama that achieved similar results for Barbour County.
However, it was in the Carolinas that the Red Shirts became a notable presence that persisted for decades. In the 1876 elections, an organization of Red Shirts from both South Carolina and Georgia converged on the border town of Hamburg (which no longer exists) to provoke a bloody confrontation that culminated in the massacre of a number of black freedmen, many of them executed in cold blood. Even worse violence broke out in Ellenton, South Carolina, resulting in the deaths of dozens of black people. …
However, the Red Shirts were far from finished. They remained an active voice in Southern politics for another two decades, in every instance serving to threaten and intimidate black voters, passing Jim Crow laws and then enforcing them through both legal and extralegal means.

Neiwert warns that the descendants the Red Shirts are visible around us today amid the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, the "patriot" movement and elsewhere, with the identical aim of depriving disadvantaged groups "with long histories of political oppression their access to the political and legal franchise."

Did the Confederacy really lose the American civil war? On the battlefield the Confederates were defeated. However, in many ways the Confederacy won the long cultural and political war. The current battle against the Jim Crow Republicans, Trumpism and an ascendant neofascist movement is the American civil war continuing into its third century.

The Confederate army could never conquer Washington and overrun the Capitol. On Jan. 6, Trump's forces were able to accomplish that goal within a few hours. Their victory served as inspiration and fuel for the American fascist movement. They will never forget that day and their triumph.

And what about those other Americans, who have convincing themselves that organized forgetting offers safety and salvation? They will soon learn that it does not.

GOP wants '18 more months of chaos' — followed by the end of democracy

Today's Republican Party is a fascist, criminal, sociopathic, anti-democratic, white supremacist, theocratic, plutocratic and cultlike organization. Its leaders (and followers) have repeatedly and publicly shown the world that they embrace such values and behavior.

In response, the Democratic Party, the mainstream news media and too many average Americans have responded to the Age of Trump and its horrors by trying to convince themselves that the Republican Party and larger right-wing movement are something other than what they have shown themselves to be.

And of course there is the fetish of "bipartisanship." Under its sway, the Democratic Party's leadership and too many among the mainstream news media and commentariat have convinced themselves that compromise with Republicans, no matter how radicalized and extremist they have become, is something virtuous in itself.

If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, that truism is especially correct here. President Biden and the Democrats have attempted to work with an opposition that has at almost every moment shown itself to be an enemy of democracy, up to and including its support for Trump's ongoing coup attempt and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

As I have previously written, "white identity politics and white rage are more important than pocketbook issues for many of today's Republican voters." The only meaningful way Biden and the Democrats can fight back must begin with "acknowledging that this crisis of democracy is existential" and acting accordingly:

This means not cooperating with the Republicans on any policies in the name of "bipartisanship." Protecting American democracy should be the Democrats' No. 1 priority. To work with Republicans is to legitimize them as responsible partners in government, when in reality today's Republican Party is an extremist, anti-democratic and white supremacist criminal organization.

Today's Republican Party is ultimately incapable of being a partner in responsible governance. It rejects basic principles of democracy and compromise towards a shared goal of serving the public good. Instead, the right-wing movement's primary goals are chaos, obstruction and destruction, with the aim of delegitimizing the very idea of democracy itself — except as a meaningless term used to describe one-party Republican rule.

Republican leaders, officials and other spokespeople know this is the strategy and have repeatedly admitted to it. Leaked video footage of Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, saying precisely that is only the latest example.

As reported by Common Dreams:

Newly leaked video footage of a recent event hosted by the right-wing group Patriot Voices shows Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas openly admitting that his party wants "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" as President Joe Biden, a bipartisan group of senators, and congressional Democrats work to pass climate and infrastructure legislation.
"Honestly, right now, for the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all of that down to get to December of 2022," Roy says in the clip, referring to the month after that year's midterm elections. Republicans need to flip just a handful of seats to take back the House and Senate.
"I don't vote for anything in the House of Representatives right now," Roy says in response to an audience member's question about the sweeping infrastructure and safety-net package that Democrats are planning to pass unilaterally alongside a White House-backed bipartisan deal.

As Indivisible co-director Ezra Levin noted on Twitter, "Chip Roy got caught saying it out loud, but to be clear this has been [Mitch] McConnell's plan all along."

What does Roy's "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" mean in practice? Of course, it means blocking specific legislation, such as President Biden's infrastructure bill and investigations into the Trump regime and its obvious crimes. More important still, it means further restrictions on Black and brown people's voting rights in a 21st-century version of Jim Crow.

Over the last several decades, Republicans and movement conservatives have shown that for them democracy is not a primary virtue or a sacred principle. Instead, they view democracy as a means to an end, a tool for acquiring and holding as much power as possible so they can impose their will on those Americans targeted as the enemy.


Such political behavior is typical of failing democracies, where an extremist, authoritarian faction infiltrates government and then uses the institutions of democracy to destroy it from within.

As Nancy MacLean, Heather Cox Richardson and other scholars have shown, one of the main tensions in American society is the relationship between democracy, property and the value of human life. Should capital and profit reign over all other considerations? Or should the United States be a social democracy where human rights have primacy over profits and property rights?

From before the founding to the present, America has been a racialized society structured around the dominance of white people over nonwhite people, and for most of that history Black people were defined as human property. So these debates about "freedom" and "rights" can often be reduced to a basic question: How much power, wealth and control should a small minority of rich white men hold over everyone else?"

In an interview last year with Yale News, political scientist Jacob Hacker explored how Republicans have built an implausible coalition rooted in "plutocratic populism," combining "organized money and organized outrage to win elections, tilt the playing field in their favor, and govern for the top 1%." In order to draw voters to support economic polices that were beloved by "big donors and big corporations but unpopular among voters, and even many Republicans," the party created an "infrastructure of outrage," notably the NRA, the Christian right and the right-wing propaganda media.

There's an obvious contradiction at work here, Hacker notes, but to this point Republicans have managed to conceal that from their own voters:

[T]he steep rise in inequality after 1980 created a sort of conservative dilemma for Republicans in the United States. Essentially, there's a growing tension between those at the top and the rest of society. It's a tension between the goals of the plutocrats — the richest people, big business, and the organizations they create to influence policy — and the ideas that Republicans need to articulate to attract ordinary voters.

In particular, Republicans have become increasingly reliant on white working-class voters. These are [Lee] Atwater's populists. But to do so, Republicans basically divorce their economic policies from their electoral strategies. Those strategies rest more and more on radicalizing voters and getting them to see electoral politics as "us versus them" identity wars. They use racial imagery, demonize government and Democrats, and basically create a kind of tribal identity around whiteness, conservative Christianity, rurality, gun ownership, and the like. The goal is to shift the focus from the growing economic divide and instead incite outrage that reliably gets their voters to the polls but doesn't challenge the party's plutocratic aims.

Unless Joe Biden and the Democrats jettison the totem of "bipartisanship" — which is largely a concern of the political class, not average Americans — the Republican Party's chaos campaign against democracy will keep on winning.

Next year's congressional midterms and the 2024 presidential election will be two of the most important elections in American history. Democracy is literally on the ballot. The Republicans and their allies and foot soldiers are following through on an aggressive plan to end multiracial, majoritarian democracy by nullifying the people's will, and have made clear they are willing to endorse right-wing terrorism and political violence to win and hold power.

What will it take for the Democratic Party, its leaders, the press and the American people to take the Republican Party's existentially dangerous behavior more seriously? Or is it already too late to stop America's accelerating descent into neofascism and a "whites only" pseudo-democracy?

A Republican lawmaker accidentally got caught saying what they all really want

Today's Republican Party is a fascist, criminal, sociopathic, anti-democratic, white supremacist, theocratic, plutocratic and cultlike organization. Its leaders (and followers) have repeatedly and publicly shown the world that they embrace such values and behavior.

In response, the Democratic Party, the mainstream news media and too many average Americans have responded to the Age of Trump and its horrors by trying to convince themselves that the Republican Party and larger right-wing movement are something other than what they have shown themselves to be.

And of course there is the fetish of "bipartisanship." Under its sway, the Democratic Party's leadership and too many among the mainstream news media and commentariat have convinced themselves that compromise with Republicans, no matter how radicalized and extremist they have become, is something virtuous in itself.

If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, that truism is especially correct here. President Biden and the Democrats have attempted to work with an opposition that has at almost every moment shown itself to be an enemy of democracy, up to and including its support for Trump's ongoing coup attempt and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

As I have previously written, "white identity politics and white rage are more important than pocketbook issues for many of today's Republican voters." The only meaningful way Biden and the Democrats can fight back must begin with "acknowledging that this crisis of democracy is existential" and acting accordingly:

This means not cooperating with the Republicans on any policies in the name of "bipartisanship." Protecting American democracy should be the Democrats' No. 1 priority. To work with Republicans is to legitimize them as responsible partners in government, when in reality today's Republican Party is an extremist, anti-democratic and white supremacist criminal organization.

Today's Republican Party is ultimately incapable of being a partner in responsible governance. It rejects basic principles of democracy and compromise towards a shared goal of serving the public good. Instead, the right-wing movement's primary goals are chaos, obstruction and destruction, with the aim of delegitimizing the very idea of democracy itself — except as a meaningless term used to describe one-party Republican rule.

Republican leaders, officials and other spokespeople know this is the strategy and have repeatedly admitted to it. Leaked video footage of Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, saying precisely that is only the latest example. As reported by Common Dreams:

Newly leaked video footage of a recent event hosted by the right-wing group Patriot Voices shows Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas openly admitting that his party wants "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" as President Joe Biden, a bipartisan group of senators, and congressional Democrats work to pass climate and infrastructure legislation.

"Honestly, right now, for the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all of that down to get to December of 2022," Roy says in the clip, referring to the month after that year's midterm elections. Republicans need to flip just a handful of seats to take back the House and Senate.

"I don't vote for anything in the House of Representatives right now," Roy says in response to an audience member's question about the sweeping infrastructure and safety-net package that Democrats are planning to pass unilaterally alongside a White House-backed bipartisan deal.

As Indivisible co-director Ezra Levin noted on Twitter, "Chip Roy got caught saying it out loud, but to be clear this has been [Mitch] McConnell's plan all along."

What does Roy's "18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done" mean in practice? Of course it means blocking specific legislation, such as President Biden's infrastructure bill and investigations into the Trump regime and its obvious crimes. More important still, it means further restrictions on Black and brown people's voting rights in a 21st-century version of Jim Crow.

Over the last several decades, Republicans and movement conservatives have shown that for them democracy is not a primary virtue or a sacred principle. Instead, they view democracy as a means to an end, a tool for acquiring and holding as much power as possible so they can impose their will on those Americans targeted as the enemy.

Such political behavior is typical of failing democracies, where an extremist, authoritarian faction infiltrates government and then uses the institutions of democracy to destroy it from within.

As Nancy MacLean, Heather Cox Richardson and other scholars have shown, one of the main tensions in American society is the relationship between democracy, property and the value of human life. Should capital and profit reign over all other considerations? Or should the United States be a social democracy where human rights have primacy over profits and property rights?

From before the founding to the present, America has been a racialized society structured around the dominance of white people over nonwhite people, and for much of that history Black people were defined as human property. So these debates about "freedom" and "rights" can often be reduced to a basic question: How much power, wealth and control should a small minority of rich white men hold over everyone else?"

In an interview last year with Yale News, political scientist Jacob Hacker explored how Republicans have built an implausible coalition rooted in "plutocratic populism," combining "organized money and organized outrage to win elections, tilt the playing field in their favor, and govern for the top 1%." In order to draw voters to support economic polices that were beloved by "big donors and big corporations but unpopular among voters, and even many Republicans," the party created an "infrastructure of outrage," notably the NRA, the Christian right and the right-wing propaganda media.

There's an obvious contradiction at work here, Hacker notes, but to this point Republicans have managed to conceal that from their own voters:

[T]he steep rise in inequality after 1980 created a sort of conservative dilemma for Republicans in the United States. Essentially, there's a growing tension between those at the top and the rest of society. It's a tension between the goals of the plutocrats — the richest people, big business, and the organizations they create to influence policy — and the ideas that Republicans need to articulate to attract ordinary voters.

In particular, Republicans have become increasingly reliant on white working-class voters. These are [Lee] Atwater's populists. But to do so, Republicans basically divorce their economic policies from their electoral strategies. Those strategies rest more and more on radicalizing voters and getting them to see electoral politics as "us versus them" identity wars. They use racial imagery, demonize government and Democrats, and basically create a kind of tribal identity around whiteness, conservative Christianity, rurality, gun ownership, and the like. The goal is to shift the focus from the growing economic divide and instead incite outrage that reliably gets their voters to the polls but doesn't challenge the party's plutocratic aims.

Unless Joe Biden and the Democrats jettison the totem of "bipartisanship" — which is largely a concern of the political class, not average Americans — the Republican Party's chaos campaign against democracy will keep on winning.

Next year's congressional midterms and the 2024 presidential election will be two of the most important elections in American history. Democracy is literally on the ballot. The Republicans and their allies and foot soldiers are following through on an aggressive plan to end multiracial, majoritarian democracy by nullifying the people's will, and have made clear they are willing to endorse right-wing terrorism and political violence to win and hold power.

What will it take for the Democratic Party, its leaders, the press and the American people to take the Republican Party's existentially dangerous behavior more seriously? Or is it already too late to stop America's accelerating descent into neofascism and a "whites only" pseudo-democracy?

Tucker Carlson's sending a loud and clear message to white nationalists

"Stochastic terrorism" is the strategic repeated use of language and other means of communication intended to encourage violence while still maintaining some level of plausible deniability. The advantage of this tactic is that the individual or group that practices it can then claim innocence and accept no responsibility for the behavior of others. The most sophisticated uses of stochastic terrorism will result in a type of moral inversion — not to mention an inversion of reality — in which the aggressor can then claim they are somehow the "real victims."

This has been one of the dominant strategies of the American right since at least the 1980s, with liberals, progressives, nonwhite people and other designated groups deemed to be the enemy Other targeted as "socialists" or "communists," anti-American or anti-Christian, "politically correct" snowflakes, "parasites," "losers" and "takers," along with other demeaning language intended to provoke or legitimate violence.

This language both reflects political polarization in the United States and fuels it. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans are not equally polarized: Since the 1990s it is the Republican Party that has become increasingly extreme, rejecting any pretense of "normal politics" and seeking to undermine democracy. It now more closely resembles right-wing extremist political parties in Europe than more mainstream or "centrist" political organizations.

The Trump regime and its larger neofascist movement (which now includes virtually the entire Republican Party) escalated the use of stochastic terrorism to extreme levels.

The result was a record increase in hate crimes and political violence against nonwhite people, Muslims, Jews, immigrants and other targeted groups. This wave of right-wing violence and terrorism included mass shootings and other lethal actions. In the wake of the Trump regime's coup attempt and the Capitol attack, law enforcement and other experts are warning that white supremacist and other right-wing violence remains the greatest threat to America's domestic safety and security.

The spiral of escalation continues: Right-wing stochastic terrorism is increasingly being replaced by direct public threats of violence against those deemed to be "the enemy".

Last week a host on the One America News Network (OANN), which can better be described as a right-wing propaganda outlet than a news network, appeared to endorse mass executions of Trump's enemies who supposedly tried to "carry out a coup" against him. By implication, the host also suggested killing Americans who voted for Joe Biden:

How many people were involved in these efforts to undermine the election? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? How many people does it take to carry out a coup against the presidency? And when all the dust settles from the audit in Arizona and the potential audits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin, what happens to all these people who are responsible for overthrowing the election?
What are the consequences for traitors who meddled with our sacred democratic process and tried to steal power by taking away the voices of the American people? What happens to them? Well, in the past, America had a very good solution for dealing with such traitors: execution. Treason is considered the highest of all crimes and is the only crime defined in the U.S. Constitution which states that anyone is guilty of treason if they support America's enemies.

These are not implied threats of violence. They are direct commands to right-wing violence.

Healthy democratic societies have a political culture in which public policy disputes and other disagreements are resolved without using force. What OANN and other elements of the right-wing movement desire is a form of anti-politics, where they are able to assert their will over others without consequences, and where to dissent from the right-wing agenda is a crime to be punished by violence. Ultimately, today's Republican Party and "conservative" movement have embraced a fascist logic in which political ideology becomes religious dogma and heretics are to be driven out.

This is just one of the many examples of how far Donald Trump normalized right-wing political violence. Granting permission for violence and other anti-social and anti-human behavior was a core element of Trump's fascist appeal for his followers. Trumpism is a political cult: Violence is one of its rites and a way of bonding the leader to the followers. To that end, the attraction to violence and the collective longing to act out violent impulses against "enemies" or "outsiders" with impunity represents a type of cathartic freedom for Trumpists and other fascists.

For stochastic terrorism and other commands to violence to achieve maximum impact, they must be repeated and reinforced by various sources in an echo chamber effect. Fox News has long been the epicenter of that echo chamber, with Tucker Carlson as one of its most powerful voices.

Last Thursday, Carlson continued with his campaign to defend (white) "civilization" against its "enemies" by somehow connecting a supposed controversy about scholar Michael Eric Dyson to 19th-century pseudoscience and then to "critical race theory" as somehow part of a nebulous and nefarious plot to "oppress" white people in "their own country."

At the crescendo of his performance, Carlson said this, specifically attacking Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

And by the way, if it's a medical condition, at what age can you catch white rage? Most of us assumed our two-year-olds were just teething. Now we know it's their whiteness that's making them so angry. Thanks, Mark Milley. We appreciate your contribution to our generation's scientific racism. By the way, have you read anything about winning wars recently? Apparently not.
We could go on — pundit after senator after professor after general — each one of them spewing race hate — whiteness! White rage! — dressed up as some new academic theory. We certainly have the tape. We'll spare you. You've seen it. It's everywhere. The question, how do we get out of this vortex before it's too late? How do we save the country before we become Rwanda? What should we be teaching our children, so that they can live in a country that you want to live in, one full of many different kinds of people who actually like each other, who can work together, who are united by the fact that they are all Americans? That's the question.

This was accompanied by an image on the screen that read "Anti-White Mania."

Carlson and his writers are masters of mainstreaming white supremacist talking points and narratives. Through a process known as "narrative laundering," profoundly racist arguments are massaged into something more palatable for the millions of people (predominantly white) who watch his program every evening.

Those who are not familiar with the white supremacist movement and its set of imaginary narratives likely did not grasp the deeper meanings and allusions that summoned by Carlson in his claims about Rwanda and "anti-white" violence. Most obviously, Carlson's reference to Rwanda was an attempt to invoke the inter-ethnic genocide that occurred there in the 1990s as a way of provoking racial paranoia and anxieties about the supposed possibility of "white genocide" in America.

Through that rhetorical move, Carlson was also directly signaling to decades-old, if not centuries-old, fears and fantasies about a "race war" in which white people would finally subjugate and then exterminate or exile Black and brown people, "cleansing" North America and Europe and driving such perceived outsiders back to their "homelands" in Africa or elsewhere. The not-quite-articulated result of this apocalyptic conflict would be a "white nation" and white global empire, also involving a second Holocaust against the Jewish people, who are viewed by white supremacists as part of a global cabal that is somehow "controlling" Black people to do their bidding. It is no coincidence that much of the QAnon conspiracy theory — an updated version of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" — is structured in a similar manner.

Carlson was also channeling white supremacist obsessions with supposed large-scale anti-white violence in South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially reports of attacks by Black people against white farmers. Such incidents have been a source of compulsive fascination in the white supremacist community in recent decades.

In an effort to put Carlson's allusions to race war and genocide into broader context, I asked Texas A&M communications professor Jennifer Mercieca, an expert on rhetoric and author of "Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump," for her insights. She responded by email:

War rhetoric typically combines ad baculum (threats of force), reification (treating people as inhuman objects), and ad hominem (personal attacks, name-calling), scapegoating (placing the blame for problems on the dehumanized other) and victimage (we are innocent, but under threat). The combination of these features is thought to prepare a nation or people to hate, fear and despise an enemy so that it will be motivated to war.
In other words, Carlson is relying on war rhetoric, while at the same time telling his audience to fear what he describes as the "war rhetoric" being used against them.
Politics is not warfare. People who hold different political or policy positions are not enemies.
But the overarching narrative of Fox News is just that: Politics is war and Democrats are the enemy.
It's really irresponsible and dangerous propaganda.

These threats of political violence and terrorism should not be understood as a joke, as a "gaffe," as "strong language" or hyperbole or with some other euphemism intended to downplay their intent and meaning. Violence is one of the main weapons used by fascists in their assault on democracy. In response to these escalating threats, the Democrats, the mainstream news media, and other elites prefer to continue their set of self-delusions about a return to "normalcy" and a naive belief that widespread political violence cannot happen in the United States in the 21st century.

Many of these elites and other influentials — like the American people at large — have been exhausted, intimidated and traumatized by the Age of Trump and its perfidy. Their response, however, is unacceptable: a state of denial about the existential threat to American democracy and society embodied by Trumpism and ascendant neofascism.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their followers consistently, transparently and directly continue to show the world who and what they really are. Denial of this reality is not salvation. It is only a pathway to doom. Unfortunately, too many Americans are wrapping themselves in denial as if it were armor — or, more properly, a security blanket — instead of facing a worsening situation and rising to the challenge.

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